PGA professional and former European Tour golfer Paul Streeter is certainly a man with many stories. From his amateur battles with former world number one Lee Westwood to being held up at St Andrews by Phil Mickelson eating fish and chips. Now teaching at the Lincoln Golf Centre, Streeter has had many up and down moments in his career. After not picking up a club until he was 16 the late progression would continue as his amateur days would take him into his thirties until he felt he was ready to turn professional. "People always ask me why I waited so long", said Streeter. "Its simple, I didn't think I was good enough, and that's it. I remember reading a quote from Brian Waite who was a Ryder Cup golfer saying 'To consider turning pro, you need to consistently shoot under par around your home course and over 50% of the time around other courses' and I wasn't doing that, so I kept working and in 1997, I thought it was time." A budding football career would seed the doubt in Streeter's mind later in his career. After turning down a chance to go semi-professional with Lincoln United it was then that he decided to give golf his full attention. "I really took to golf and I enjoyed it, it wasn't that hard to say no to football I mean I still played for my local village team but when I joined Sleaford Golf Club there was a good bunch of guys there which made it was easier for me to improve. But it got to a point where I was progressing really well with the golf; I was playing for the County and then got selected for England so I couldn't risk injury so I knocked football on the head."
After being encouraged to play by his father who was a very good player himself it was within a year that Streeter got down into single figures: "I was just one of those annoying people at school that was just good at all sports so when I took golf up I worked hard to get my handicap down. I worked a lot with my coach Graham Bradley who is still my coach now after 28 years and with a year of picking up a club for the first time my handicap came down from 24 to five."
Streeter represented England for five years from 1992 playing the home internationals and against various other countries including France and Spain. However in 1997 it was the doubts, thoughts and what if's in his football career that was one of the biggest pushes in his decision to turn professional. "I didn't want to have the same feeling in my golf career as I did when I think back to when I played football, so I took the decision to go pro. A couple of years at Tour school followed before in the year 2000 Streeter gained his European Tour card and was finally able to pit his game against some of the best players in the world. His first event was the Singapore Open and the first person Streeter would see in the airport was the great Seve Ballesteros. "I really thought I had made it then but that was a big mistake mentally from my part. I thought when I turned pro that was it, I'm there and I didn't really have a plan which is why I probably didn't do very well. I made the cut in Singapore, did okay but then I just had a load of missed cuts and my game just wasn't good enough certainly from 100 yards in and my putting wasn't up to tour standard. Tee to green it wasn't a problem I could compete with the best of them but it was a bit of baptism of fire going straight on tour as I hadn't played much Challenge Tour golf before then but I think if I had that time again I would certainly have had a few years on the Challenge Tour before thinking about making the step up."
Streeter would spend the next few years competing on the Challenge Tour and trying to get his card back on the full Tour. All this in-between becoming a family man and finding the time to qualify as a builder so he could work during his non-golfing months. Having been based at the De Vere Belton Woods in Lincolnshire for most of his touring career at 40 years old he decided that he needed something to fall back on which is when he decided to enroll on the PGA training course. "It was amazing some of the stuff I learnt in those three years. At first I went in thinking what more could I learn at my age but all of the sports science and bio-mechanics they taught us was fascinating stuff and it's those key aspects which I use in my lessons today."
Still continuing with his playing career in the PGA regional events and the Order of Merit, the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship at St Andrews would give Streeter some experiences he would never forget and an opportunity to catch up with an old friend. "It is still very fresh in my mind. My wife and I along with my best mate Martin who was caddying for me drove up on the Sunday and we were staying in a flat in St Andrews. That night we walked down to the local pub sat having a drink and in walks Tom Watson and it was quite surreal as it was like I'd known him for years, he said hi and he was just at the end of the bar all night having a drink with his friends and family. Towards the end of the night I was outside with my best mate and Tom comes out to go home, has a few photos with people and walks off up the road swinging his arms, simulating a golf swing. It was just a great moment."
Even before the event which was hit by severe weather it would be two players that would provide Streeter with the highlights of his week: "I had a few practice rounds, the first on the Monday was with Simon Khan and we were playing behind Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and a few others and there was a bit of a hold up but we didn't mind as the weather hadn't changed then. Bones, Mickelson's caddy came up to us after the 10th and apologised for the hold up as they all went and got fish and chips. Then on the 18th we were waiting for them to finish and anyone that has ever been to St Andrews will know that the grass is as tight as you could imagine and firm, so if you're not playing a full shot it's quite easy to fat it. So in I hit a good drive and I'm about 50 yards short of the green and ahead of us they've put the flag back in but are waiting around, Phil shouts and waves us through as there having a chip off probably because they've got a few bets on, so I'm stood over this shot, probably the most nervous I've been ever in my career with what was the World Number two watching me play a pitch shot into the 18th at St Andrews, but thankfully it was a good shot, made birdie and left them to it."
That evening Streeter was looking for a spot to put his name down on the board for the next day's practice. "I know Justin Rose quite well but he was already in a fourball and then I saw Lee's (Westwood) name there at 11am with a place spare so I got my name down to play alongside him, Andrew Coltart and a young amateur named Tyrell Hatton. "It was a great day, I've know Lee for years after playing a lot of amateur golf together and walking down the 1st he asked me where I was living now and it was great to see his mum and dad again who were with him all the time as an amateur supporting him, my wife was there as well talking to them so it turned out to be a really nice day and so much fun. It was great to how Lee had improved, his iron play and his putting were good but his driving was something else, the flight was just amazing. During our amateur days he was a very good golfer and I always thought that he would go on to bigger and better things and he's proved me right."
Paul is currently experiencing life on the European Seniors Tour, with 2 wins in his rookie season. Be sure to check out his progress and keep an eye out for him at the top of the leaderboard!